In the on-line mommy support world it’s become common to tell others to not feel guilty. We often want to support each other and don’t want another mother that we care about to feel this negative feeling. Motherhood is jam-packed with big emotions and sometimes we just want to put a lid on it.
While I understand not wanting someone to feel guilty or not wanting to feel the feeling myself I think it’s important that we do. Guilt has a purpose. All feelings serve a purpose in our life experience. I cannot support the repressing of any feelings. When we ignore our feelings or push them aside we are not allowing ourselves to process them and learn from them.
Feeling guilty about our decisions or actions helps us to navigate future situations. If I yell at my child I feel guilty. Rightfully so. It’s a shitty thing to do. When I accept the feeling, acknowledge that I am experiencing this negative feeling because I did something that I regret then I can move through the feeling and be more aware of my actions next time. The guilt lets me know that I don’t want to do that again. It acts like a barometer for the type of parent I want to be.
When we tell ourselves and each other not to feel guilty, to just let it go and move on then we risk not processing this feeling and gaining the perspective we need to learn from it. When we don’t process feelings, when we push them aside, when we don’t deal with the big stuff going on inside we are not doing anyone any favors. These feelings will find a way out. We find ourselves even less tolerant of the child we yelled at, more agitated with daily triggers and often lashing out on-line.
The answer is not to not feel guilty. The answer is to go with it. Feel it. Let it work its way through you. Learn from it. Acknowledge what you did that you feel guilty about. Make a plan on how to act differently next time. Then it will go away on its own.
Sometimes we feel guilty about things due to pressure from the outside such as keeping the house clean. This guilt can also serve a purpose. We want to have a sanitary living environment, but we don’t want to be cleaning all the time. When the house gets to be overly dirty we start to feel guilty. Letting us know that it might be getting past the point in which we would like to maintain. We need to be very careful with this type of guilt though. Make sure it’s your own feelings about your priorities and not someone else making you feel this way.
When we take responsibility for our own feelings it can lead us to more confidence and an easier time ignoring those pressures and judgments from the outside.
Abby Theuring, MSW